The 5 Best Weekend Escapes from Atlanta

Where to have a restful weekend less than four hours from Atlanta

There's no shortage of things to do in a city as busy as Atlanta, but sometimes it's good to get away and experience a destination that's a little more relaxed.

Live music at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina
The Orange Peel is a popular music venue. (Courtesy Explore Asheville)

Asheville, North Carolina

There's much more to Asheville than the Biltmore Estate. This Great Smoky Mountains city is alive with a thriving and eclectic music scene. Mountain music makes up the most-heard tunes but musicians also draw inspiration from bluegrass to jazz to gritty hard rock. 

It's also a foodie's paradise. Some of Asheville's best restaurants—Table, Chai Pani, Rhubarb—have James Beard Award nominations and there are more breweries in Asheville per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.

Getting There: Take Interstate 85 north to I-985 then follow US 23 to Asheville. 

Check In: Greybeard Rentals with its 200 cabin rentals

Don't Miss: A scenic drive along The Farm Heritage Trail to buy local produce directly from family farms

The lobby of Dwell Hotel
Dwell Hotel is on the site of a former fort used in the Civil War. (Courtesy Dwell Hotel)

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga is a Creek Indian word for Lookout Mountain meaning "rock coming to a point." The city was the site of some of the hardest fought battles in the Civil War and that history is narrated aboard the Southern Belle Riverboat and Chattanooga Ducks. Visitors can also follow a driving map of the Trail of Tears across two counties.

After soaking up the local history, sample all of the flavors of Chattanooga on the Eat Sip Walk tour covering five or six restaurants.

Getting There: I-75 north to Chattanooga

Check In: The Dwell Hotel, a boutique hotel in a former Civil War fort

Don't Miss: A scenic ride on a historic train from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum 

Bronze mouse
One of nine bronze mice hidden along Main Street (Courtesy VisitGreenvilleSC)

Greenville, South Carolina

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is the perfect place to spend family time outdoors. It's on the escarpment where the mountains shrink to the foothills and views from the top are unbeatable. Young visitors will enjoy Linky Stone Park with a children's garden and a Hansel and Gretel cottage. Baseball fans can tour "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's home, now a museum dedicated to the legend. 

Getting There: I-85 north to Greenville

Check In: The Westin Poinsett, within walking distance of the children's museum and several parks

Don't miss: The bronze Mice on Main, inspired by the children's story "Goodnight Moon"  

Statue of Martin Luther King Jr.
A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. stands in Kelly Ingram Park. (Courtesy Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham was pivotal to the Civil Rights Movement when activists staged sit-ins and marches across the city and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his involvement. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tells the story and a walking tour through the Civil Rights District leads visitors past key spots like Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.

The city is also home to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, honoring greats like Nat "King" Cole and Duke Ellington. Explore McWane Science Center and visit the Barber Motorsports Museum to see more than 1,200 vintage and modern motorcycles and race cars. 

Getting There: I-20 west to Birmingham

Check In: Hotel Highland in the city's historic district

Don't Miss: Grab a bag of fresh roasted peanuts from the antique roasters at the Peanut Depot

Equestrians riding into the woods
Hitchcock Woods provides miles of hiking and riding trails in the middle of the city. (Sir Mildred Pierce/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Aiken, South Carolina

Aiken has a picturesque walkable downtown and performance space—The Alley—a broad, paved alley that also serves as a venue for farmers markets and festivals. This equestrian city has two horse racing tracks, several polo fields and is home to one of the best polo teams in the world. Look for the life-sized horse statues throughout town, each painted with their own theme.

Many of the earliest homes—from the 1870s—are used as museums or historic sites. The 14-acre Hopelands Gardens is a city highlight with acres of 100-year-old live oaks and a labyrinth.

Getting There: I-20 east to Aiken

Check In: The Willcox

Don't Miss: The Avenue of Oaks leading to Hitchcock Woods, one of the largest urban forests in the United States